Cocktails From the Bay Area The Martini, Mai Tai, Tequila Sunrise and more!
The San Francisco Bay Area has given the world a lot of things. Denim jeans, the jukebox, the slot machine, popsicles, the fortune cookie and tons of other great items were invented in the large area in Northern California surrounding San Francisco. But you may not know that the San Francisco Bay Area is also a place that created some of the most popular cocktails served in bars around the world. From the Martini to the Mai Tai, these cocktails have been an integral part of celebrations, holidays, pub crawls and nights on the town.
You may notice one specific drink missing from the list that you probably heard was created in The Bay Area. The Irish Coffee, often mislabeled as a San Francisco cocktail creation, was actually created by an airport bartender in Limerick, Ireland. However, The Buena Vista Cafe, thanks to travel writer Stanton Delaplane (who tried the drink in Ireland and convinced the owner of the Buena Vista to re-create it) is the bar that is credited with bringing the wonder of the Irish Coffee to the United States. A popular stop on San Francisco tours, The Buena Vista Cafe is one of the must-see San Francisco attractions for both locals and tourists.
Next time you are out and about, try one of these great cocktails created in The Bay Area. (and don’t forget to tip your bartenders)
Although the Martini is considered more of a high-end cocktail, it was originally created out of necessity than purpose. Back in 1849, in the city of Martinez, a bartender was running low on inventory and found himself with an assortment of liquor and mixers that weren’t typically used together at the time. With the limited supply available, including gin, maraschino liqueur, a bottle of gin, some bitters and a lemon, the clever bartender created “The Martinez Special”, also known as the very first Martini in the world. As the word spread, eventually showing up in San Francisco, the recipe was slowly perfected and eventually became one of the most famous cocktails around.
The newest cocktail created in San Francisco comes from one of the iconic San Francisco bars, The Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Based loosely on the classic sidecar cocktail, mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim combined Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, lemon juice and orange liqueur in a glass with with cinnamon and sugar around the rim.
California Milk Punch
While the combination of milk and punch may seem a bit odd, this cocktail is surprisingly delicious. Created by Jerry Thomas during his time in San Francisco and eventually published in his 1862 Book “Bartenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks” The recipe is quite complex, a combination of rum, brandy, green tea, pineapple, lemon, coriander, cinnamon and milk, which is mixed and allowed to curdle for 3 days. The remaining mixture is then strained through cheesecloth, creating a clarified cocktail.
You can find California Milk Punch at great spots in SF like Novela, Aina, Kaiyo and Fog City.
A popular cocktail during the Gold Rush, the Pisco Punch was created at the Bank Exchange Saloon, which opened in 1853 on Montgomery & Washington Street, which where the Transamerica Building is today. The main ingredient, Pisco, is a Peruvian Brandy that was imported to SF even before the Gold Rush began. Bartender Duncan Nicol combined Pisco, Sugar, Lime Juice, Pineapple Juice, Gum Arabic and Distilled Water to create the drink that earned fame worldwide as writers like Mark Twain and Harold Ross wrote glowing reviews after trying the delicious cocktail on trips to San Francisco. The Bank Exchange Saloon eventually closed down in 1919 due to prohibition, but the legend of the famous cocktail lives on to this day.
Although the Irish Coffee is usually what comes to mind when you think about cocktails made with coffee, the House Cappuccino from the original Tosca’s Cafe in North Beach actually predates the Irish Coffee. Created in 1919, the famous drink actually doesn’t contain any coffee. It is made by combining cream, Bourbon, Armagnac and “house cappuccino mix” (which consists of heavy cream, bittersweet chocolate, homemade vanilla syrup, salt, water and milk).
As with a lot of cocktails, there are some questions about the actual origin of the Mai Tai, but the most accepted scenario leads back to Oakland, CA in 1944. Restaurant owner, Victor J. Bergeron, claims that he invented the cocktail, which combines Jamaican Rum, Molasses Rum, Curacao, Orgeat Syrup, Lime Juice and Simple Syrup in a glass with a lime and spearmint leaves. The story goes that when friends who were visiting from Tahiti tried the drink, they said “Maita’i roa a’e”, which roughly translates to “The Best, Out of this world!”, so the drink became a shortened version of the saying, or Mai Tai.